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Types of migrant

Migrants can be divided into five main categories: settlers, contract workers, professionals, unauthorized workers and asylum seekers and refugees.

Settlers - These are people who intend to live permanently in their new country. Most head for the main countries of settlement, notably the United States, Canada and Australia. Around one million travel year, the majority of whom are joining close family members.

Contract workers - They are admitted to other countries on the understanding that they will stay only for a specific period: the length of their contract. Some are seasonal workers. Others will be on longer-term contracts, of a year or more. Most are to be found in the Gulf countries.

Professionals - These include employees of transnational corporations who are moved around from one country to another. These tend to involve fairly small numbers, typically fewer than 1% of people employed in local affiliates are expatriates.

Irregular workers - Somtimes called undocumented or illegal immigrants. There are significant numbers in most immigration countries. Some have been smuggled in, others are overstaying their visas, or are working on tourist visas.

Asylum seekers and refugees - Asylum seekers have left their homes to escape danger; if their claims for asylum have been accepted they are then classified as 'refugees'. In some cases of mass flight, however, when thousands of people escape across a border they are accepted as refugees without going through this individual process.

These are the main categories but there are many other possibilities.

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Sudanese family in Finland
Settlers - Sudanese family in Finland.
© IOM 2003 - MFI0003 (Photo: Aisha Marouf) .
Indian contract worker in Dubai
Contract worker - South Asian in Dubai.
Photo: Pixmixer